my first cell The phone is a brick-shaped Nokia with hundreds of minutes loaded on it. When I got my first car, my parents gave it to me on the premise that whenever I drove outside of school, I would call them as soon as I got there so they knew I was safe . It’s a reasonable rule—especially considering how many times it took me to pass my driving test—and I agreed without hesitation. Even so, I almost never remember doing it. I’d watch a movie in the theater, and then I’d realize I forgot to call. I would dash to the car — where I left the phone — and have a quick, rushed conversation with my worried, terribly annoyed parents. Of course they knew I was probably fine. But it’s hard not to know what your kids are doing without you.
This unknowing is at the heart of many contemporary parental anxieties about teens, social media, and screen time. It has inspired a lot of effort to fight how many children use their devices. Last week, TikTok announced that users under the age of 18 would be restricted from using the app by one hour a day as part of its new suite of tools aimed at limiting children’s use of the app. TikTok will begin compiling and sending weekly screen time recaps to users, providing them with individual usage statistics compared to previous weeks. The app also introduces a new “Family Pair” tool that allows parents to monitor their children’s screen time and even enforce custom content and usage limits. However, not all of these new restrictions are hard and fast. Users aged 13 to 17 will have many internal options to bypass their restrictions and even set their own restrictions.
In other words, TikTok’s new measures are unlikely to have a significant impact on teens’ use of the app.what the steps might do and what they actually are Designed Doing so helps reinforce the general cultural awareness that screen time itself is the problem. Parents worry about their children’s mental health, and they fear social media will make it worse. Social media companies would love it if everyone agreed the solution was just less screen time.
from that moment on By the time children reach school age—much earlier for working families—they begin to spend most of their lives out of the sight of their parents. These unseen hours are a very worrying mystery for parents. You try to trust their teachers, their caregivers, the institutions they study in, the communities they move in, but that trust is largely blind. I have two very chatty young daughters who would love to tell us stories about their school days, but I’m vague at best about what happens between school and school. My first grader walked out of school with a bag of Fritos and a stack of graphic novels, talking about how her friend was going to raise a bunch of pink-dyed ponies at her birthday party, and I had to figure out the rest.
This time of inaccessibility can cause some anxiety for parents. It fuels contemporary reactionary scares about critical race theory and gender identity, and librarians illegally handing out Toni Morrison novels to kindergarteners from under their trench coats. Parents have no idea what their kids are doing all day. Lack of knowledge starts to feel like a lack of control, which can drive a person crazy enough to turn into a monster. It banned books, it got teachers fired, it policed pronouns.
Social media is the ultimate specter of this invisible, unregulated age. Parents who see their kids staring at a screen know that there’s a world beyond their reach within these rectangles, even if they’re just curled up in an armchair 10 feet away. These worlds are filled with specialized languages, secret social codes, references, and webs of jokes that require weeks of immersive research to master. Parents have no way of knowing what their children are being exposed to, what kind of online world they are helping to build, so turn to time itself.